The Pearly Kings and Queens originated in the year of 1875 and have continued up to our present day.
Henry Croft (1862 to 1930) the founder of the organisation was born in 1862 and was raised in a Victorian workhouse orphanage in Charles Street, Somerstown, St, Pancras. At the age of thirteen he left the orphanage and became a road sweeper and rat catcher. Henry soon felt at home in his new position and became akin to the Costermongers (apple sellers) in their “flash boy outfits,” on the stalls in the markets.
The clothes the Costers wore were decorated with a row of pearl buttons each the size of a penny down the outside leg seam of their trousers from the ankle to the knee, the pocket flaps on their waistcoats and the front of their caps would be decorated in a similar fashion.
The Costermongers were a tough resilient and colourful breed and had a language of their own, hence the cockney rhyming slang, they were also a caring bunch and if a fellow coster was down on his luck they would organise a” whip round” to help him get back on his feet.
Henry was fascinated by the costers suits and decided to go one step further and decorated a whole suit which was top hat and tails in pearl buttons, Henry became a great attraction wherever he went and collected pennies and halfpennies to help the orphanage where he was raised to help the children there. Henry became so popular that Hospitals and other organised bodies asked him collect for the deaf dumb and blind, Henry’s lifetime of charity work had begun.
Henry was unable to manage all of this work on his own and needed help badly. The help came from his friends the Costermongers of the street markets of London and so the Pearly Monarchy had begun and still continues to this present day. Many of the Costers became Pearly families. There were 28 families one for each Borough of London, one for the City Of London, and one for The City of Westminster.
The succession of a Pearly is by inheritance. As London grew so did the pearly Monarchy and the work spread to many different charities that needed help. In 1975 the Original Pearly Kings and Queens Association was Re-formed and hold their meetings in St Martins in the Fields. Links with the Church and the Pearlies is extremely strong.
Two very colourful events in the year are the Pearly Memorial service held on the third Sunday in May and the harvest Festival service held on the first Sunday in October. Both events are held at St Martins in the Fields Trafalgar Square in London here you will see Pearly Kings and Queens, Princes and Princesses young and old in their wonderfully decorated suits coming together dedicated to voluntary charity work and to preserve one of London’s most colourful traditions.
The Memorial statue of Henry Croft.
The Memorial statue of Henry Croft was donated by the Hospitals, societies, and other charitable organisations Henry had helped in his lifetime. The statue was placed in Finchley Cemetery where Henry was buried, sadly the statue was vandalised on three occasions and laid in many pieces for six years.
The Original Pearly Kings and Queens Associati0n have now been able to repair the statue and with the help of dedicated members of our Association and the Church it is now on show in the Crypt of St Martins In The Fields.
The life size statue of Henry Croft is now in a safe place at last, he is there for all to see in his fine top hat and tails pearly suit.
THE PEARLY MOTTO IS“ONE NEVER KNOWS”
THE ORIGINAL PEARLY KINGS AND QUEENS ASSOCIATION
CHARITY NO 274242